Casting directors spread their net across the globe for rising stars
Villeneuve on how he made the cut, and a Middle East casting callcast
Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve has revealed that his talent scouts scoured the Middle East for potential stars in his return to the world of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic.
“I searched for the cast everywhere. That’s one of the benefits of being on a movie of this scale. You can have casting directors everywhere – Asia, Africa, Europe, South America.”
Unfortuately on this occasion, the region’s budding film stars were out of luck: “We did have people that looked in the Middle East, but the thing is, it’s a different tradition of acting in the Middle East,” says Villeneuve.
“I have shot there, and of course it’s slightly different in all the countries. Some have a strong tradition in cinema, others in television or theatre, and the thing is ... they offer something different, but on this occasion it wasn’t right.”
One relative unknown, at least outside her native Netherlands, that did come from the international talent search was the Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks, who plays Love in the film.
Villeneuve seems impressed by his new prodigy. “I saw Sylvia on a self-tape,” he says. “My casting directors had been looking for the most promising young actors and actresses all around the world and her name kept coming up. When I saw her tape I could see she had something special. She did a Rutger Hauer scene from the first movie – we couldn’t give them scenes from this one because there was so much secrecy – and I knew I had who I wanted.”
Villeneuve adds that his hunch was proved correct. When Hoeks finally made it to the set, he says he was even more impressed with her abilities than during the audition process.
“She came on set very prepared with a really strong proposition about how to approach her character,” he says. “She did her first take and there was just a silence. Everyone was like, ‘What the…?”
“It’s a very rare thing. I have witnessed that kind of talent very few times in my life, an actress with that range. I’d love to work with her again and again. She doesn’t know that, but I’m telling you now.”
Hoeks may be a newcomer to Hollywood, but despite his Oscar nomination for Arrival and a host of awards for films such as Maelström and Incendies, Villeneuve is also something of a novice compared to his partner on the project, Ridley Scott.
Scott directed the original 1982 Blade Runner film, as well as seminal films such as Alien and Thelma & Louise, and executive produces this time around. I ask Villeneuve what it was like to have such a giant of cinema in the background while he took his creation to the next level.
“Ridley’s involvement was strong. The ideas were all his, but once he was done with the screenplay he decided that another director was necessary because he just wasn’t available,” says Villeneuve.
“He loved the project and he really wanted to do it himself, but it was simply that his schedule was fully packed with the new Alien movie [Covenant] and The Martian, and at the same time Harrison Ford was not very patient – he’s no spring chicken and he wanted to get shooting soon, so he realised another director was needed.”
With such attachment to the project, you might expect Scott to be constantly offering advice and suggestions, but Villeneuve insists the veteran director gave him free rein to create his own movie.
“I met with Ridley, we talked about the ideas, the first movie, the struggles of making the first movie, and at the end of it he said, ‘This movie is yours, this project is yours. If you need me I’ll be at the other end of the line’. He was at the other end of the world too because he was shooting. So he didn’t interfere at all. I think the only time we had a major discussion was about the title of the movie; he wanted to have input on the title, but honestly that’s it.”
Fortunately, it sounds like Scott approved of Villeneuve’s efforts.
“I was so scared,” he admits. “I really didn’t want to know when Ridley was watching it. I was just, ‘Don’t tell me.’ But he has seen it and he loved it. I hope you will too.”
Blade Runner 2049 is scheduled for release on October 6 in the United States, with a UAE date to be announced